What is happening at Barcelona?

The Catalan giants are on the verge of exiting the Champions League and could lose sight of Real Madrid in the La Liga title race

BY Cian Roche 14:40 Friday 17 February 2017, 14:40 17 Feb 2017

Image: Michel Euler / AP/Press Association Images

Just two years ago, Barcelona looked to set for a sharp decline.

Inconsistent domestic form, coupled with unrest among the team and little trust in the management meant that it looked almost certain that there season would not turn out to be a success. That year, Luis Enrique managed to change the club's course and guided Barcelona to a second ever treble.

The move away from the patented tiki-taka style which had been developed and which had flourished under Pep Guardiola was now part of the past and the future remained bright.

Fast forward two years and Barcelona now look on the verge of a Champions League exit in the Round of 16. They are just one point behind Real Madrid in the race for the title - although Zinedine Zidane's side do have two games in hand - and scraped by Atletico Madrid to the Copa Del Rey final.

On Valentine's Night in the city of love, Paris Saint-Germain picked apart Barcelona to break Catalan hearts and all but condemn them to an early exit from Europe's premier competition.

Speaking to Off The Ball this week, Graham Hunter offered a reason as to why they capitulated against the French side.

"Over the months there's been an atrophy of their positional sense and the passing," he explained.

"Rather than playing straight into the brilliant football brain of Sergio Busquets, the lack of system usually puts the spotlight on the fact he has never been the quickest athlete over several metres. When it's not working well it puts the focus on Sergio Roberto as an auxiliary right-back. 

"What you saw in Paris was the epitome of the lack of system, confusion and lack of antidote when things go wrong. I've seen teams blitz Barcelona as PSG did in those first 20 minutes dozens of times not just under Luis Enrique but under Tito Villanova and Pep Guardiola too. 

"You know what would happen. They'd be on the ropes, they'd take the punches and they'd punch back. They'd take the ball and change the pattern of the game."

Lionel Messi was ineffective during Barcelona's 4-0 defeat away to PSG on Tuesday night. Image: Francois Mori / AP/Press Association Images

He did give credit to PSG who utilised their centre forward so as to stifle Barcelona's midfield threat.

"Anyone who loves football could see the brilliance of Unai Emery's strategy. The way in which Edinson Cavani dropped back to smother Busquets and make it impossible for him to function.

"[Marco] Verratti and [Blaise] Matuidi kept popping up between lines in midfield. As much as it's sensible to talk about the decline of the great side in our lives, the PSG performance - including the goals - was sublime."

Barcelona face into four consecutive league matches to try and close the gap on Real Madrid, including a trip to the Vicente Calderón to take on Atletico Madrid at the end of the month.

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